Urban Actuation: Public Space as a Catalyst for Urban Revitalization
Ollson, Ryan Michael
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The physical and social benefits of public space apparent to architects, landscape architects, and urban designers are endangered in many North American mid-size cities as residential, commercial and industrial development spreads further from the core of the city. Enduring a surplus of surface parking, vacant storefronts and abandoned lots, the physical ailments of distressed city centres have an equally negative impact on the social environment. As a result, the community's perception of public space is in a fragile state as their experience of a fragmented urban environment creates feelings of insecurity and vulnerability. Engaging this vulnerable territory of the city, this thesis explores public space as a testing ground for new ideas to be hypothesized, tested and developed. The proposal, a product of an in-depth study of the theory and practice of Everyday Urbanism and Temporary Use, develops a method for design and analysis titled Urban Actuation. Applied to the site of Galt City Centre, Cambridge, Ontario, the Urban Actuation process provides an inclusive way to perceive, value and develop urban public space. Proposed interventions emerge from empirical observation of the existing physical and social conditions of the city and are tested as a means of engaging the community and receiving feedback into the process. Intended to accompany market-driven development, Urban Actuation champions the design professional and city leaders to educate the community on the importance of public space while fostering physical and social urban change.